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Rolling Thunder veterans change image of bikers

June 4, 2009 by · Comments Off on Rolling Thunder veterans change image of bikers 

On Memorial Day weekend in Washington, parents cheered and their babes waved little American flags at hundreds of bikers. What has happened in three decades to inspire this sea change in attitude toward bikers, a group that once was feared by average Americans?

In an event with the almost-menacing moniker Rolling Thunder, almost half a million motorcyclists rumbled across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, snaked around the Mall and dismounted en masse near the Lincoln Memorial. Most of the bikers were clad in black leather, many sported Visigothian manes and beards and almost all straddled brutish, black Harley-Davidsons or H-D clones.

The bad-boy biker image began decades ago. In Hollister, Calif., on the weekend of July Fourth, 1947, a motorcycle rally became rowdy. Some drunken participants (restless war veterans among them) were arrested, and Life magazine ran a story featuring a staged photograph from Hollister of a belching biker perched on his machine’s footpegs, surrounded by beer bottles. In 1953, Columbia Pictures projected a highly fictionalized and sensationalized version of the event on the silver screen in the Marlon Brando film “The Wild One.”

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Patriot Chopper makes debut ride during Rolling Thunder

June 5, 2008 by · Comments Off on Patriot Chopper makes debut ride during Rolling Thunder 

Patriot Chopper ARLINGTON, Va. – Although “Rolling Thunder” may be the name of a stirring circus march, for many those two words bring to mind the revving of a half-million motorcycle engines.

Every Memorial Day for the past 21 years, bikers from all over the country have traveled to the nation’s capital for a one-mile trip from the Pentagon to the National Mall. Event organizers call it Rolling Thunder because of the sound made by thousands of motorcycles crossing Memorial Bridge into the District of Columbia. The event’s main focus is to publicize American servicemembers who are prisoners of war and those who are still listed as missing in action.

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